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Italy Transportation Overview - Driving in Italy and Sample Train Fares

Bob Little (Bob the Navigator)

Bob gives us an overview of driving in Italy and taking trains. For more details, see our Instructions for Visitors sections - Driving in Italy and Trains in Italy.

Question: Should we drive in Italy

Answer: Of course you should if your driving skill and confidence would allow you to drive a rental car in Vermont, Colorado or California. But, be advised of these tips:

  • Avoid driving in the major cities except for picking up or dropping cars
  • Have good maps, study them in advance, and have a good navigator

We have rented a car for 20 of our 22 trips to Europe. Our only mishap was a minor fender bender in a leased car, and that was in France.

Question: What car should I get and where do I get it?

Answer: It is best to rent your car before you leave for Europe. The best source we have found is AutoEurope (www.autoeurope.com) who is a broker for several car vendors. They will quote you prices to include the variables that are often omitted by others, such as unlimited mileage, full mandatory insurance coverage, and VAT taxes. The best model will depend on your needs, but for best value we suggest you select a compact car with manual transmission. Automatics are available but will cost you about 30% more and may limit your model options & pick up locations.

Question: Are Italian drivers as crazy as I have heard?

Answer. Yes and no! They are certainly aggressive, but they are also more skilled than many USA drivers; both are a function of necessity. Italy is one of the most crowded countries in the world and the drivers have evolved these characteristics

  • They are notorious tailgaters. If that bothers you, pull over and let them pass.
  • On the Autostrada they will drive fast, but will stay in the right lane except when passing and will use their blinkers when passing; you should too!
  • They will often pass on two-lane roads with traffic coming. They expect you, and the on-coming car, to adjust to the shoulder and make three lanes of traffic.

Other Road Tips for Your Driving Sanity

  • Learn the meaning of the sign " SENSO UNICO" and take heed (one way).
  • Be sure to get your ticket when you enter the Autostrada system and be prepared to pay the toll when you exit it (rule of thumb - 300 km = 15 euro). You can use your credit card in the VIA lane at the toll both, or buy a debit VIACARD in advance. There are also lanes for paying in cash.
  • Do not attempt to follow road numbers, that will frustrate you. But, do pay attention to the directional signs that point to your destination (e.g. to Montalcino). And, be aware if that road leads eventually to a larger city (e.g. Roma)
  • Unless you have a diesel car, you will want to fill the tank with benzina from the green pump. Most stations will pump gas for you and will take credit cards.

Sample Prices on EuroStar Trains in Italy

Prices in euro (E) shown for second class with first class prices in brackets.

Rome to: Naples 22E (33), Florence 30E (42), Venice 45E (67), Milan 47E (67)

Florence to: Venice 27E (40), Milan 29E (42)

Venice to: Milan 23E (29). Most trains on this route are Intercity trains.

Bob the Navigator is a retired IBMer whose passion for European travel has evolved into a hobby and trip planning business - www.bobthenavigator.homestead.com (Slow Travel Classified Listing). See Bob's Slow Travel member page for a list of his articles.

© Bob Little, 2004

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